“Stop the Pro-Russia Propaganda!”

“Stop the pro-Russia propaganda please, Jim!”

That is the earnest plea of reader John W.

This John wrote in response to yesterday’s reckoning about the Ukrainian situation.

In it Jim Rickards drew a sketch unflattering to the Ukrainian image.

Jim even suggested that the fellows in Kyiv may execute a “false flag” assault upon the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s Kherson region.

They would point their fingers toward Moscow and shriek, “He did it!”

This, Jim argued, would incense international opinion and invite a direct Western intervention against the Russian hellcats.

Thus John believes Jim slants in the Russian direction. John continues:

How can you possibly be on Putin’s side in all of this?

Russia is a mafia-based fiefdom with no way to criticize their “leaders.” It is collapsing as evidenced by the Wagner group’s actions, and any nuclear war is far more likely to happen from that perspective, once squabbling warlords get control of arsenals.

Does Jim take “Putin’s side in all of this”? Or does he merely follow evidence where it leads him?

Jim believes credible evidence implicates Ukraine in the dynamitings of both the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline and the Nova Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam.

Jim concedes that the evidence against Ukraine is circumstantial. The evidence implicates, he realizes — yet it does not convict.

Jim nonetheless believes the evidence is sufficient to empanel a grand jury.

“Ukraine is the victim being invaded,” John continues.

It is true. Jim recognizes that Russia has trespassed upon Ukrainian property. To that extent Ukraine is indeed a victim.

It suffers under savage assaults.

Yet was the trespassing unprovoked — as many claim? Jim has maintained that it was indeed provoked.

Provoked, that is, by the United States and its understrappers within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

For years they have labored to bring Ukraine within their camp. For years Mr. Putin has labored to keep Ukraine out of their camp.

He has growled about it. He has snarled his teeth.

He insisted Ukraine represented a “red line” that the NATO alliance must not cross.

Yet the NATO alliance repeatedly extended its toes across Mr. Putin’s red line.

Last February the Russian president finally stomped upon them.

Does Jim endorse the Russian invasion? Does he cry it up and cheer it on?

He does not. Jim derives no joy from the bloodletting, from the carnage scenes. The bloodlust is not in him.

He merely executes a professional analysis… as a detective analyzes a crime scene… or an autopsist analyzes a corpse.

And if he detects boo-boos in the theory that the Russian aggression was unprovoked?

Well, then the theory that the Russian aggression was unprovoked can just go scratching, Jim says.

Is he a propagandist because of it? Or is he a truth-chaser?

Jim is a truth-chaser in our estimation. Does he always run truth down? Does he always seize it by the tail?

No he does not. Like all men running down truth, he may be foxed and deceived. He may pursue phantoms. He may take paths terminating in dead ends.

The quarry may at times elude his grasp.

Yet these are errors — honest errors. There is no malice in them. They do not represent “propaganda” in our estimation.

John concludes:

I will cease reading your newsletters until a more reasonable bias becomes apparent.

That is of course John’s right. He is free to exercise it.

Should Jim Rickards whistle a different tune to accommodate John and take on — dishonestly — “a more reasonable bias”?

John would like it if Jim did. Yet would John respect Jim if he did?

Would you respect Jim if he did?

Which is more important — to be liked — or respected?

Shortly after the invasion we hosted a debate. It was a debate between a mainstream spokesman — who denounced Vladimir Putin in the most vicious and violent terms — and Advocatus Diaboli, the devil’s advocate.

Being the devil’s advocate, this fellow spoke on Mr. Putin’s behalf.

Today, we repost this rambunctious debate, updated slightly. Read on…

Putin Finds an Ally

By Brian Maher

Mainstream Spokesman: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a severe breach of international law and a crime against humanity. He is a ruthless thug.

Advocatus Diaboli: It is true — the fellow is a ruthless thug — and plenty more. I can assure you the Boss has space set aside for him once he pays his debt to nature. He has a reservation, so to speak.

Yet I would caution you Americans about invoking international law. Your observance of international law — so-called — can be rather… selective.

Under which international law did your United States invade Panama in 1989 or Iraq in 2003? Under which international law did you oust Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011?

Or, for the matter of that, under which international law do American soldiers presently occupy the sovereign nation of Syria?

Russian troops are also there, it is true. But they were invited in by the Syrian government. Where was your invitation?

Mainstream Spokesman: That’s ridiculous. These were evil regimes that killed their own people and threatened their neighbors. They were the bad guys. We liberate oppressed peoples. We’re the good guys.

Advocatus Diaboli: Let us assume — arguendo — that you are the good guys. And compared with the Saddam Husseins of your world, I’ll grant that you are. But it strikes me as rather hypocritical that you cite international law only when it suits you.

I’d rather you simply admit that you are willing to overlook international law when freedom and democracy and the rest of it are on the line. That would at least be more honest, whether or not you even mean the freedom and democracy spiel.

And do you realize that under international law, you become a co-belligerent in the war by arming Ukraine. I have to say, the “madman” Putin has shown great restraint by not retaliating.

And did you see the Seymour Hersh piece detailing how the United States blew up Russia’s energy pipeline to Germany? That’s an act of war, buster. And still Putin does nothing.

Mainstream Spokesman: Oh, please. Don’t compare our attempts to spread freedom and democracy to Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Putin hates democracy, as all dictators do. As the world’s leading democracy, we must support democratic values. The Ukrainians want democracy. They also want to join NATO and the EU. And Russia is one of the most corrupt nations on Earth.

Advocatus Diaboli: I see what you mean. But let me address your points, beginning with the last. It is true, Russia is one of the most corrupt nations on Earth and the most corrupt in Europe.

But do you know which is the second-most corrupt nation in Europe? You guessed it, jack — Ukraine.

And I would remind you that this Ukrainian democracy of yours isn’t especially democratic.

Did you know that its President Zelenskyy, now so bravely defying Russian authoritarianism, arrested the leader of his opposition party, banned three television networks and outlawed churches that are canonically linked to Russia? I could cite additional examples.

And this Zelenskyy fellow has just announced that next year’s election will likely be canceled.

Is this your idea of democracy? That strikes me as rather Putin-esque, to be frank.

Mainstream Spokesman: Don’t get cute with me. You can’t compare Zelenskyy to Putin. The opposition leader was a puppet of Russia and a traitor. What Zelenskyy did was appropriate. This is wartime and sometimes you have to take drastic actions that you never would in peacetime.

Lincoln grossly violated the Constitution during the Civil War out of necessity, for example. He was fighting a war for his nation’s survival, for heaven’s sake. So is Zelenskyy.

Advocatus Diaboli: I see. So you must subvert democracy in order to defend democracy.

Mainstream Spokesman: Sometimes, yes. That’s just reality. Get over it. Get down off your high horse.

Advocatus Diaboli: We don’t have horses where I am. Anyway. You say Putin is Hitler. If he’s allowed to gobble Ukraine, in no time flat he’ll be gobbling Poland, the Baltic nations and so on. If you give him his one inch in Ukraine, he’ll take his mile everywhere else. Do I have that right?

Mainstream Spokesman: That’s exactly correct. He won’t stop in Ukraine.

Advocatus Diaboli: Mmmm. That sounds a lot like that famous domino theory that got you into Vietnam. How did that work out for you? But I’ll let that go. Let me ask you this: Are you willing to fight for Ukrainian freedom and democracy?

Mainstream Spokesman: We will do everything we can to help Ukraine defeat the Soviet — sorry — the Russian invasion. But we don’t want to intervene militarily because it could start a war with Russia, which could potentially go nuclear. See, I’m not saying we should intervene militarily. We’re just giving Ukraine the weapons it needs to defeat this unconscionable act of Russian invasion.

Advocatus Diaboli: That sounds reasonable to me. But don’t forget, you’ve essentially made yourself a belligerent in this war by arming Ukraine.

You wish to bring Ukraine into NATO. But recall Article 5 of the NATO Charter. It says an attack on one constitutes an attack on all. All members must rush to the defense of the besieged.

Let’s assume Ukraine somehow ejects Russia from its territory and a victorious Ukraine gets admitted to NATO one day. That would mean NATO — the United States, essentially — must defend Ukraine if attacked, presumably by Russia once again. These Russians can be pretty determined fellows, you know.

And then you might have your dreaded nuclear war. Does this make sense?

Let me ask you this: If you’re not willing to directly fight for Ukraine’s independence today, why would you be willing to fight for Ukraine’s independence tomorrow — and risk nuclear war with Russia?

Mainstream Spokesman: It’s called deterrence. Collective defense is meant to deter aggression. That was the idea behind Woodrow Wilson’s proposed League of Nations. Bringing Ukraine into NATO will deter Russia because they don’t want to risk a larger war with us.

Advocatus Diaboli: There appears to be some sound logic in your argument. But are you willing to tie your security — and perhaps your very survival — to the decisions of unpredictable people thousands of miles away? You become a sort of hostage to fortune.

Your Founding Fathers warned against becoming involved in so-called entangling alliances. What is NATO but an entangling alliance?

Again, assume Ukraine joins NATO one day. What if, in the future, Russia decides its interests are so threatened in Ukraine that it is willing to risk nuclear war?

What if your lovely deterrence fails? You did not think Russia would invade this time. Yet it did.

Why should anyone think you can predict future events? Have you thought this through?

Mainstream Spokesman: Yes, absolutely. The world would be a safer place if Ukraine joined NATO. It would show other aggressors that they can’t just invade their neighbors. We need to take a stand now.

Advocatus Diaboli: I see you mentioned Wilson. He entered World War I to make the world safe for democracy. He may have meant it, too. But look at the results. What he really made the world safe for were fascism and communism.

You know where the path of good intentions leads to, right? Well, I’ll tell you. To my neck of the woods. Old Woodrow can personally attest to that. The Boss particularly enjoys chasing him around with a pitchfork. When he connects, Wilson yelps like you wouldn’t believe. I rather enjoy watching it, I must admit.

Mainstream Spokesman: The League of Nations was a good idea. It was just that Wilson couldn’t get enough support for it. It might have stopped Hitler if it had real teeth, as we must now stop Putin.

Advocatus Diaboli: Have you considered the possibility that your own policies are at least partly responsible for Putin’s actions?

Mainstream Spokesman: Here we go — another Putin apologist. You and Trump should get together.

Advocatus Diaboli: Believe me, one day we will. But nevermind that. Just hear me out…

Putin had warned for years that Ukraine was his line in the sand, his “red line.” He would not accept Ukraine within NATO, menacing at his doorstep. In reality, no Russian leader would, even a “liberal” one. But you people just kept poking the bear.

And you spent eight years or so arming Ukraine and training its forces. That was in direct violation of the Minsk agreements. Germany’s Angela Merkel has since admitted that NATO deliberately violated the agreements.

Then you turn around and say Putin’s attack was unprovoked. I’m very tempted to call you people hypocrites.

Meanwhile, Victoria Nuland, some understrapper in your State Department, actually bragged about engineering a coup against Ukraine’s pro-Russian president in 2014 (the Boss is keeping a dossier on her, believe it when I tell you).

And she’s practically bragged about blowing up Russia’s pipeline! Did you hear her?

To you people, Ukraine is a sort of pet project. To Russia it is a strategic imperative. How would you like it if Russia was arming Mexico and invited it into a formal alliance? Well, now that Putin has pounced, you clutch your pearls and take to the fainting couch.

HELLO! He warned you this would happen. But you didn’t listen.

Mainstream Spokesman:Why should we listen to an anti-democratic dictator? Who cares what he wants? We don’t base our foreign policy on what Vladimir Putin wants.

Advocatus Diaboli: Well, maybe you should take his security concerns into consideration. He does, after all, have nuclear weapons — and may be prepared to wield them. Is a democratic, NATO-joined Ukraine more important to you than avoiding nuclear war?

Look at what your Pat Buchanan said over 20 years ago:

By moving NATO onto Russia’s front porch, we have scheduled a 21st-century confrontation.

But it is not just the “isolationist” Pat Buchanan who warned about NATO expansion. Shall I name some names?

No, you say? But I insist. Take, for example, the famous statesman Henry Kissinger:

To Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country… Ukraine should not join NATO.

(Incidentally, I can’t believe the old coot is still kicking. But the Boss will get his hands on him soon enough.)

Or a certain Jack F. Matlock Jr. — former United States ambassador to the Soviet Union. This fellow argued that NATO expansion was:

The most profound strategic blunder, [encouraging] a chain of events that could produce the most serious security threat… since the Soviet Union collapsed.

Or radical Noam Chomsky — hardly a Putin apologist:

The idea that Ukraine might join a Western military alliance would be quite unacceptable to any Russian leader [and Ukraine’s desire to join NATO] is not protecting Ukraine, it is threatening Ukraine with major war.

Or the late Russian scholar Stephen Cohen:

If we move NATO forces… toward Russia’s borders… it’s obviously going to militarize the situation [and] Russia will not back off. This is existential.

Or CIA Director Bill Burns:

Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for [Russia] and I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.

Or former defense secretary Robert Gates:

Moving so quickly [to expand NATO] was a mistake… Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching [and] an especially monumental provocation.

Or Sir Roderic Lyne, former British ambassador to Russia:

[Pushing] Ukraine into NATO [is] stupid on every level… if you want to start a war with Russia, that’s the best way of doing it.

Or globalist Jeffrey Sachs who, incidentally, is convinced that the United States bombed the pipeline:

NATO enlargement is also utterly misguided and risky. True friends of Ukraine, and of global peace, should be calling for a U.S. and NATO compromise with Russia.

Mainstream Spokesman: Enough! Stop! You’ve made your point, even though I disagree. I stand firm in my resolution that Putin must be stopped and that Ukrainian freedom and democracy must be defended.

Advocatus Diaboli: Even if it means war with Russia?

Mainstream Spokesman:[Silence.]

Advocatus Diaboli: Well, it’s been fun. I hate to run, but the Boss is calling for me. But hey, I’ll be seeing you.

No, I really mean it — I’ll be seeing you. And if things keep going at the present rate, soon.

The Daily Reckoning